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Lesson Plans for A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman by David Adler

This lesson plan is designed to read the book aloud to kindergarten or first grade students.


(From dust jacket): Harriet Tubman was born into slavery on a Maryland plantation in 1820 or 1821. A rebellious child, she did not always do as she was told. She hated being a slave and escaped to the north on the Underground railroad in 1849. During the next ten years, she used the money she earned at odd jobs to return to the South and lead about 300 slaves to freedom.


Students will be able to:
  • Name three facts about Harriet Tubman's life

  • Discuss what it was like to be a slave

  • Discuss the importance of standing up for one's beliefs

  • Attend to a story

  • Discuss vocabulary terms:
    • Plantation
    • Hired out
    • Abolitionists

  • Collaborate to share personal depictions of Harriet Tubman


  • Copy of A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman

  • Chart paper and markers

  • A Harriet Tubman head and body pattern for each child

  • Various clothing patterns

  • Constructin paper in various colors

  • Glue, scissors, crayons and colored pencils


Before reading

  • Gently discuss slavery with class. Explain that people were forced away from their own families to go to work for other people. Slaves worked for other people for the rest of their lives, and if they had babies, those babies worked for other people for the rest of their lives.

  • Some slave owners were pretty nice, while others were very mean. Many slaves were beaten, and they were often sold away from the new families they made in America.

  • Ask students how they would feel if they were taken away from their families (make sure to know family make-up in class before discussing this issue).

  • Display cover of book. Read the title. Where are these people? What are they doing?

  • We are going to read about Harriet Tubman, a brave woman who was born into slavery and fought back for her own freedom and the freedom of other people.

  • Explain that there are some words in teh book that they should know the meaning of before reading. Turn to pages with these terms below and define the terms:
    • Plantation
    • Hired out
    • Abolitionist

During reading

  • Make "I wonder" statements:
    • I wonder what it would feel like to see that huge house so close and live in a hut with no windows.
    • I wonder what I would do if my sisters were taken away from me.
    • I wonder why John Tubman didn't help his wife.

  • Comment about how young Harriet was when she was hit in the head.

  • Explain that the Underground Railroad wasn't a real railroad - it was a way to sneak away from the plantations without being caught.

  • Explain that Harriet threatened slaves she was helping to make sure everyone stayed safe.

  • Comment on the fact that Harriet was a slave, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, a spy, a nurse, a farmer, and a teacher.

After reading

  • What do you remember about Harriet Tubman from the book? Chart student responses. Students should be able to attend to about 6 facts being recorded.

  • Review the facts students recall by reading the chart. Place chart in a prominent place in the room.

  • On the chalkboard, list the different roles Harriet Tubman had in her life. Discuss how people who do different things dress differently.

  • Pass out head and body pattern of Harriet Tubman to students. Explain that they are going to decide which way they want to see Harriet Tubman dressed. Will she still be a slave? Will she be a spy? Will she be a conductor? Will she be a nurse? Will she be a teacher? Display a completed Harriet Tubman to class as a model.

  • Students will use clothing patterns, construction paper, crayons, and scissors to design a costume for Harriet Tubman.
    • Note: This project cna be accomplished in learning centers. An adult should be assigned to assist students - a parent volunteer could help with this center.

  • After all students have had the opportunity to make their paper models of Harriet Tubman, have students choose a partner.

  • Explain to students that they are going to share their models of Harriet Tubman with their partner.They will have one minute to talk about their model with their partner. They should explain which job Harriet is doing and why they chose to have Harriet dressed the way she is dressed. After the minute is over, their partner will have time to share his or her model.

  • Hold to the one minute time limit for each partner.


  • Student participation

  • Following directions

  • Teacher observation

  • Student responses to questions

Please note: Current research by literacy experts such as Dr. Cathy Collins Block indicate that when reading about a non-fiction topic such as a biography, students learn more if the first book is immediately followed up by reading a second book on the same topic. Below is a list of appropriate books to read to kindergarten and first grade students about Harriet Tubman:

  • Skelton, Renee. Harriet Tubman: A Woman of Courage (Time for Kids) Harper Collins Publishers, 2005.

  • Weatherford, Carole Boston. Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom. Hyperion Books, 2006.

  • Schroeder, Alan. Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman. Penguin Group, 2000.

  • Turner, Glennette Tilley. An Apple for Harriet Tubman. Albert Whitman, 2006.

  • Mortensen, Lori. Harriet Tubman: Hero of the Underground Railroad. Capstone Press, 2007.

  • Clinton, Catherine. When Harriet Met Sojourner. Harper Collins, 2007.

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